Immigration Journalist Laura Wides-Muñoz Releases Book About Dreamers

Anna Zilberberg
Last Thursday, the Trump administration released a controversial proposal that would allow 1.8 million Dreamers — undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children — to pursue citizenship, but only in exchange for an end to family-based migration policies, the retirement of the diversity visa lottery, and the building of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. In Trump's first State of the Union Address this week, the president hinged his immigration reform rhetoric on the horrors of gang violence and terrorism as he reiterated points from last week's proposal and presented them as the four pillars of his immigration reform plan. "Americans are dreamers too," Trump said.

Journalist Laura Wides-Muñoz has been covering immigration issues for more than a decade from Miami, Cuba, Central America, and Los Angeles. This Friday at Books & Books in Coral Gables, Wides-Muñoz will release her first book, The Making of a Dream: How a Group of Young Undocumented Immigrants Helped Change What It Means to Be American. The writer will discuss her research with Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez and Maria Rodriguez from the Florida Immigrant Coalition in a conversation moderated by Tim Padgett of WLRN.

Wides-Muñoz describes the story she wrote for the Associated Press that inspired the book. “In 2010, I was sitting in church when Carlos Roa, Gabby Pacheco, Isabel Sousa-Rodriguez, and Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez were doing their walk from Miami to D.C. and I was looking for a New Year’s story,” she says. The group was taking part in the 1,500-mile march from Miami to Washington dubbed the “Trail of Dreams.”

“There was something about these kids that really spoke to me. They spoke without an accent, went to Miami Dade [College], and were like other American kids that I knew. After I did that story, I kept following them,” says Wides-Muñoz, who's now a senior story editor at Univision’s English-language TV network, Fusion.

The Making of a Dream follows the stories of five Dreamers: Hareth Andrade-Ayala from Bolivia, Dario Guerrero Meneses from Mexico, Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez from Brazil, Marie Deel from Costa Rica, and Alex Aldana from Mexico. The activists arrived in the United States with their families at varying ages, from 2 to 16 years old, between 1991 and 2003. The other activists from the original “Trail of Dreams” article are also followed in the story.

The book documents the lives of the activists as they risk their safety to reveal their statuses as undocumented immigrants in order to spur change in immigration policy and public perception of them and those they represent. The narrative begins in 2000 and covers the journeys of its characters through the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Obama administration’s DACA policy and ends with the 2016 presidential election and the first few months of Trump's tenure.

“Clearly, I think the book shows that we have these young undocumented immigrants in this country and most Americans agree that it is a waste of resources and amoral to do nothing for them... If you grow up here and consider yourself an American, if we rely on your labor and happily take your taxes, then at some point, we have to recognize that you are part of this country,” Wides-Muñoz says. “These young people are showing that what it means to be American is to be engaged... to be involved.”

Ultimately, the book explores the power of young people to make a difference in American society. “I was inspired by the whole movement, not just immigrants, but young people in general... Young people can still make a change and can still have an impact if they don’t do it alone. All of those different people... come together to make a movement. There is no one voice, no one person,” she says.

“There is so much misinformation [about immigration]... I hope the book reaches behind the choir... [and] educates peoples and fosters more intelligent, productive conversation.”

The Making of a Dream by Laura Wides-Muñoz. 6:30 p.m. Friday, February 2, at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables; 305-442-4408; Admission is free.
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Minhae Shim Roth is an essayist, journalist, and academic.
Contact: Minhae Shim Roth